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Saturday, 03 October 2015


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The Japanese engineers are to user interface design as the English are to cooking.

The biggest problem I have with my modern cameras, especially the mirrorles type, is shutter lag. There are so many functions and processes tied up to the shutter button, that it invariably fires late. When shooting landscapes it doesnt matter much, but when timing is essential, as in most of my photography, it is a problem. I have even considered going back to film with a Leica M, just to have decent shutter lag. I currently use a Fuji X100S, and a Fuji XT1, great cameras, but they too have this issue. I have learned to anticipate and press the shutter before, but that is not an ideal solution. I never tie AF to the shutter button, because I zone focus, so that isnot the cause. I guess the culprit is having the diaphragm always open and you have to wait for it to close for the exposure. I wonder how the new Sony fares in this regard. I won't hold my breath, though.

Hey gordon...twice in about a week, are you coming out of Blogger retirement ?..... I also would like to criticize the manufacturer for these issues, but after 40 years I still forget to take the lens cap off.

It wouldn't be so frustrating if it weren't SO true. Worse yet, try to figure out how to reverse it and get back to "normal."
It's almost as though "Hal" has taken over the ship and does what he wants when he wants.
Only mi dos pesos.

So grab your Leica, load it with film and quit worrying.

Yep! That's why I prefer my old film cameras over my fancy digital models.

This is but one of the reasons that we view camera-using Luddites say "real cameras don't have batteries." :-)

Was feeling the same way in late Spring of this year. I felt a project coming on so I decided to add a couple more Nikon manual focus film cameras to my collection and just slow down. I have four cameras in my stable that function exactly the same, have physical controls and were dirt cheap in excellent used condition. For convenience and flexibility, I keep two loaded with different B&W films and the other two loaded with different Color films. I grab one or two of them depending on how I feel and just go shoot. I spent the whole Summer shooting film in manual mode and had a great time enjoying it... In fact, i still have not picked up one of my digital bodies four months later. I will go back to shooting digital at some point, but right now I am having too much fun to care and the camera never gets in my way.

It's true, Gordon. Lately, my Pentax K5 has taken to some odd behavior when it comes to exposure. It's possible there's something technically wrong with the camera. But I suspect the truth is that I inadvertently changed some setting deep in the bowels of the menu (and Pentax's menus are a lot better than those of a number of other camera brands).

This is one reason that I have a Fuji X100T. If I want 100 percent manual - aperture ring and all - I can get it. An acquaintance of mine (a professional phitographer) has a full-on Canon 5D Mark-whatever kit. But he often defaults to his Fuji X00S because he gets "better results" that way.

This is why I use Leica M cameras. If the photo is messed up, I know that it was my own fault. I started photography with an East German Praktika and Zeiss Jena lenses, then I moved up to a Contax N1. My first digital camera was a Canon 5D, and while it was a wonderful camera, I never got used to not having an aperture ring on the lens. With my current Leicas I have full control of depth of field, focus, and exposure in a manner that is convenient for me.

In my industry (aviation), the counterpart of your wonderment has been prefaced by the rather infamous comment of "What's it doing now?" uttered on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) not long before a tragic accident. Much of the high technology introduced into cockpits has increased pilot workload below ten thousand feet, and decreased it at cruise altitudes.

There seems to be a fairly common disconnect between the techies who design stuff and their end users.

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good."
-- "Song of the Witches" by Billy Shakespeare

'Tis the time of year for such stories exchanged on pitch-dark nights 'round roaring campfires.

Aye, Gordon, I've had a few strange experiences with my cameras that won't ne'er be explained by anyone. Two brands of cameras, in particular, most often seem possessed by Beelzebub. I'll not invoke their names directly (for fear of retribution). But one, which I'll call "FrankenPO", has always been inclined to just plain stop working, complaining that it one of its components isn't ready. Granted, FrankenPO is a system composed of components engineered in very different eras. But some of those components just seem haunted.

The other cameras, which I'll call "Oskars", are also prone to odd behaviors. Oskars actually date back to the times of the Druids. Although the recent models have incorporated new-fangled technology their Druid heritage can still emerge at inconvenient times. This week, for example, while I was shooting rapid sequences my late model Oskar just decided to STOP, apparently to pray for 15-20 seconds several times. Yes I missed some good frames during these pauses, causing me to utter some incantations of my own.

But we have no choice but to trust these little devils, do we? The alternatives are too horrible to consider: painting and drawing.

Double, double toil and trouble...

Hmm, unfortunately for all those technically flawed images I still have to blame myself. (oh wait - could it be the camera? Maybe yes, and if so wouldn't a new one certainly have improvements in this or the other sector???)

Yes, maybe because I am old fashioned, still use a 3+ year old camera model (and only this one as my mind isn't capable of effortlessly adapting to different user interfaces aka bells, buttons, menus, whizzles and the like) and because I most of the time stick to two different settings in which I change one respective variable, I am quite sure I don't loose images because of camera quirks. Sometimes maybe it isn't fast enough, but more often I am, and unfortunately it never does what I am thinking, only what I am setting, whichever wrong that may be. But it certainly challenges me, trying to find its and my limits. That way, I do have fun and rarely remorse...

I haven't really emerged from the 70s in some ways. I very frequently use manual exposure, and while I use auto white balance, I'm always shooting raw so it matters rather less. Focus is either reliable, or else things are moving so fast I'm not sure what's really happening; maybe the camera is betraying me, but I don't get that feeling (just, sometimes, it's not keeping up).

Well, some moons ago I was planning to take a picture of a flower with some lovely 'bokeh' (I suppose it's one of those things everybody has to go through, like growing pains) and painstakingly set the focus point on said flower. When the camera finally fired, not without struggling to autofocus for a while, everything was in focus - except the flower.
Of course I reverted to manual focus. And decided never to use that lens again. Later I decided never to use AF cameras again. It was that off-putting.
To be fair, there must be AF cameras that do a better job, but I'd rather not take any more chances.
(On second thought, that must have been the camera's way to stop me from shooting clichés. Did Olympus invent the 'Camera Restricta' six years before Herr Philipp Schmidt?)

I sometimes wonder if I can rely on the shutter spring in my trusty Ansco.

Some where between the table top of the camera store and our homes, the supposedly inanimate camera acquires a soul. You and I cannot see those souls because they are intangible "things". Like all souls, camera souls too have egos and fancies and preferences. That is what causes all those unpredictable behaviours of cameras.
The interaction between our souls and the camera souls is what makes using those cameras fun, but sometimes frustrating. Does any one complain about the unpredictable behaviour of a dog? You see, it is the soul. Like all beings with souls those cameras too die one day. I do not know if those souls go to heaven to meet with the souls of the camera users (or hell to meet me). And I am not sure if mechanical cameras have souls. Most probably not. Oh, they are so predictable and consistent. Just soul-less machines.
Ranjit Grover

Trust, but verify.

I find that my cameras generally do what I think they are going to do. It's true that automation tends to *add* to the complexity of using them because you need to make sure the computer is set to do the right things all the time. I tend to try and keep my settings and preferences simple. The more things you touch the more likely it is for something to go wrong. This relatively obvious wisdom comes from years of experience developing software for these infernal machines. Also, the less you have to use the menu system in the camera the better.

That said, I'm used to working this way. When I go into old fashioned mode I tend to forget to make some critical setting and the result is just as perplexing and saddening as if the automation system was set wrong. Either way I did the wrong thing, not the camera.

It is ironic that the "small, lightweight, discreet, pocket" cameras that one would assume are the thing for fast action, on-the-street, ready for anything photography are the cameras most plagued by delays and shutter lag.

I suffer with my Fujifilm unit because it's small and makes really good looking shots (when it fires,) but I never disposed of the large professional Nikons specifically because they fire when I push the button. Oh, and curiously, the Nikon D800 has less net(me + camera) shutter lag than my friend's M9!

Let's face it, we're getting old! There's no cure, the cameras are packed with features that in the film days didn't exist. Forty years ago, I had a OM-1, with its match needle built in meter, that was the epitome of high-tech!
Now, at seventy-nine and retired, every once in a while on a rainy day, I'll pick up my small mirrorless, which I love, and try to 'perfect' my camera handling technique! But no matter how much I practice, I'm still clumsy and especially so in the heat of picture taking,- and I always botch up a setting or two.
But I'm still having fun, and I'm fairly sure you are too.
Good to see you back Gordon!!

Predictability is one of those things that specs and reviews doesn't say anything about. I have two cameras at the moment and according to specs/reviews one is a horrible first iteration bag of quirks and one is a technical wonder. Guess which one I trust... I rather have a camera with a technically narrower comfort zone that gives me consistent results than a supercharged übercamera with a lottery-algorithm embedded. The suspense just kills the creativity. I do think that Lomo-stuff has its own merit though since the unpredictability is, in fact, predictable.

Shutters are for sissies. Just use the lens cap (or your hat). True manual exposure!

With my Canon 5D Mk3, I've learned to never touch the exposure compensation. The camera always knows what it's looking at and any input from me will only mess up the result - - except for every one in a hundred shots where the camera severely under exposes for no reason at all.

Fun? Adventure? A sense of wonder?


I'm just amazed that these complex little devices work at all. Same with our cars. Each iteration they add another layer of potential trouble. But cars are lasting longer than ever these days, despite the potential for software gremlins. Cameras I don't know. My daughter's FM2 seems almost perfectly reliable and its little battery meter lasts forever. I've mostly stayed friendly with whatever lurks inside my Oly dslr's and mirrorless cameras over the years. One reason to stick with a brand... it's the devil you know. I recently disabled a couple buttons I don't use on my EM1... at least there is the option to dumb down and avoid trouble.

Gordon Lewis's angst is not uncommon among more technically competent film shooters after switching to digital. It represents a technological disconnect. Digital cameras are basically complicated computers-dumb machines which do nothing but move electrical charges representing zeros and ones around as instructed by the firmware/software. And most software isn't that smart either. I started taking photos in 1948, and have worked around computers since 1960, so I have had a bit of experience. I went digital when I figured that digital images could reasonably match film quality. And I had to make the tech understanding adjustment like every one else. Digital auto functions are generally set to operate with specific rules, some of which you may be able to modify by programming options. But even the most "sophisticated", such as eye detection and focus are totally limited. They don't think for you. You have to know their limitations and when you want something else, turn the automation off and go manual. I do it all the time. Still, some limitations are well known. Auto exposure in back lit scenes is an example, especially if you want to control the degree of silhouette. If I have exposure questions, I use the histogram my Nikons give me. A great improvement over film. I can correct on the spot without waiting for film development. So, what I'm saying is that digital is great, I love it. But you are the photographer not the camera. Its not hard, but you do have to invest some time, effort and experimentation in learning what digital can and cannot do. For me it was very worthwhile.

I'm usually shooting a manual focus lens on a d800e in manual mode and so I find my Nikon does exactly what I ask it to do.

Regarding the Shutter lag sub set of camera annoyances , a lot of it comes from additional stuff linked to shutter buttons.
The first thing I look for on a camera is the ability to remove the AF function from the shutter button.
Any camera that has 'back button AF' capability will vastly improve shutter lag, It will also improve most folks pictures by making 'Where to focus" a conscious choice again.
Manufacturers seem to think that since adding features and custom functions to cameras has little cost beyond programming them into firmware 'why not'. But there really is a cost in usability. And the complexity is daunting.

For critical work. Full manual, using the center focusing point only, and a hand-held incident meter. Sometimes shot with studio flash. Sometimes using a tripod or camera stand.

Hasselblad has an interesting focus system called True Focus http://static.hasselblad.com/2015/02/using-true-focus.pdf that I'd like to try. It seems like it would cure a lot of (but not all) focusing problems.

P (for professional) for snapshots. Works great with fill-flash.

As you can see I do everything or I let the camera do everything. There is no half me, half camera.

Now let's talk about spell checkers ... Meh!

I have one question that no one seems to have asked:

If you don't trust your camera's automation, why are you using its automation?

That's a serious question. If automation is problematic, turn it off. Manual mode in a DSLR is the same as manual mode in any other electronic camera--film or digital--either the camera is working the way it's been set up to work or it's broken. Being "the camera guy" for a lot of people, I have found that the former is far more common than the latter.

I don't like automation myself. I think the camera should do what I tell it to and no more. I tried shooting in AV and TV briefly, but hated them, so I shoot in manual mode (though shooting TTL flash with spot metering and FEC in manual mode has been surprisingly wonderful). In the fourteen years I've been using digital cameras, I've never once had a camera in manual mode change shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, metering mode, or any other exposure setting on its own. I've bumped plenty of controls by accident and found myself shooting at 30 seconds and f2.8 rather than 1/200 and f11, but custom settings ended that particular annoyance (and a bit of gaffer tape stopped me accidentally changing custom modes).

Regarding autofocus, problems of accuracy and precision shouldn't surprise anyone--they are not news. They're not even olds at this point--they're just an accepted fact of life, and one for which turning autofocus off is an admirable solution, especially when you're on a tripod taking pictures of rocks.

Cameras changing autofocus points is news however, but it's not news that should surprise anyone, given how camera-makers trumpet that particular feature in every single press release, as they have done for...well...just about forever. I find that feature unbelievably annoying, so I turn it off. When I use AF, I choose my own AF points and I have never had a camera suddenly change AF point on me.

The one concern Gordon raises that I've had actual experience with is aperture control. I find aperture variability between shots (up to 1/3 of stop sometimes) to be a minor annoyance. It is, however, a minor annoyance that's only visible in comparison, has never cost me a shot (lack of raw histograms makes it impossible to dial in an exposure to within 1/3 of a stop anyway), and is universal to all cameras that keep the lens wide open for focus and composition and only stop down for exposure--in short, it's an SLR problem rather than a digital automation problem. On the few occasions when aperture variability has been bothersome (shooting 2000+ image focus stacks, for instance), I've found that holding down the DOF preview button and then dismounting the lens just enough to break the electrical contacts to the camera works just fine.

Maybe I've been especially fortunate, but when I bought my first DSLR in 2010, it took me all of five minutes to set it up exactly how I wanted it (which amounted to going through the menus in order and turning off anything that sounded annoying) and the only times it's misbehaved were after I dropped it in a swamp and after I spent all night out in Hurricane Sandy (both of which required repairs), which strikes me as a pretty good track record given how rough I am on my gear.

FWIW, most of the automatic systems in modern digital cameras were fairly well established in the last generation of film cameras. They've been refined and scaled a bit, but an F5/F6 and a D4/D800 do not operate all that differently ... the one exception being auto-ISO, of course. Love auto-ISO. 😃

I have purchased and sold often at a loss more digital image makers than I can count. Part of the problem is assuming the camera knows what it is doing and secondly do I know what I am doing? The basic Nikon F was simple and it worked. These days the only thing simple is me, too many options, too many problems. One saving grace is we can look on the back and review what we have taken; IF I can remember how to do that particular action.

Bring back a basic box camera (that doesn't cost $4000.00) with a simple digital recording device; as there is no place to process film, locally.And I'll be damned if I am going to mail my exposed film to either the USA or to Quebec.

So you got me started... Let me set the scene: Fuji X cameras. I'd like 'Min Shutter Speed' to actually behave as its name suggests; right now it's more of a 'Suggested Lowest Shutter Speed'. ISO limits, both low and high, are hard and the camera will respect them, but the 'Min Shutter Speed' is ignored once the maximum ISO is reached (and the camera lowers the shutter speed in order to achieve correct exposure) and is therefore not a real limit.

More infuriatingly, I have got into several online discussions with fanboys who insist this is proper behaviour for a camera. For the record, no other camera maker with a min shutter speed feature does this.

Off to take a walk now to help me calm down, because this angers me every time I think about it...or use the camera in low light with a min shutter speed set. Argh!

It does rather seem to depend on the camera I am using.

The real problem comes when they offer to make certain menu choices 'sticky'. Nothing worse than forgetting to manually reset tripod settings (mirror up and self timer).

However, I quite like Fuji cameras. Not many menu options, shutter dial set to auto, WB to auto (very reliable) and then just shoot with the EV comp, aperture ring and feedback from the EVF.

The only time it gets jumpy is when the batter is about to expire, when strange whirring noises precede the start-up process as it struggles to set focus and aperture to where they were before.

Yes, there is a bit of shutter lag, but at least it's entirely predictable.

Firstly I can tell by your name you are a man of great charm wit charisma and looks.

It seems to me that camera manufacturers are hell bent on taking all the fun out of photography. With all of the automation to make image simple they've finally made the cameras so complex that they're nearly impossible to set up without a trip to the manual, now faithfully stored on your smart phone. There's simply no such thing as a point and shoot anymore. Even smartphone cameras have layers of menus.

What happens as a result of the camera manufacturers making everything automated for beginners is that they totally spoil it for anyone who wants to become more involved in the process of taking an image. It's not that your annoyed by the weird errors. It's that you didn't get to make them. When I make a mistake I get something from it. A lesson or a challenge. Maybe an opportunity. When the camera does the same thing it's just waste.

A few manufacturers try to do right but none of them actually get it all together. You really need 4 things in a camera. Shutter, Aperture, ISO and focus. Not a single manufacturer has all of these done right so you HAVE to rely on the automation. Leica and Fuji get close but you have no direct access to ISO without using two hands. Sony lets you have all three but is focus by wire. Absurdly with third party lenses it's actually the closest to a simple camera system. Canon and Nikon use focus screens that make MF near impossible with fast glass.

No wonder people still love film. That's where it feels like you're crafting a photo rather than acting as a tripod for a computer.

I really wish the Leica M type 60 was cheaper.


"In my industry (aviation), the counterpart of your wonderment has been prefaced by the rather infamous comment of "What's it doing now?" uttered on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) not long before a tragic accident. Much of the high technology introduced into cockpits has increased pilot workload below ten thousand feet, and decreased it at cruise altitudes.

There seems to be a fairly common disconnect between the techies who design stuff and their end users."

As a retired engineer from the same industry, I concur completely. And note that, sadly, those workload changes are the exact opposite of what's needed.

In all industries today, there's way too much "gee whiz" inflicted by designers who are more inclined be nerd show-offs than listen to users begging for functional simplicity.

James Sinks said "I have never had a camera suddenly change AF point on me." Well, I have never had a camera NOT change AF points on me! Every single digital camera I have ever had (with the exception of my first, a tiny Canon Elf), has done this, randomly, and always at the worst possible time. In a few cases I've realized it was because the various buttons on the back of the camera were getting pressed by my belt or satchel buckle when I'd be walking around with the camera. For others, I don't know why it happened. (We're talking about seven different cameras.)

I was used to using a Leica rangefinder, when my wife got a Canon EOS film camera after our first child was born (28 years ago). I was amazed at how well it did fill-in flash and autofocus. Second child came along and I was amazed how often the camera would focus between the two children at trees in the background. Often when I would use it, I thought I had set up the shot perfectly, including focus, only to have the camera change something in that brief instant the shutter was pressed. I then decided that automated cameras needed a "Now don't change a friggin' thing" button to press before pressing the shutter button.

Automation has come a long way since then and I have a far greater percentage of technically good shots now as compared to my Leica days. The pictures that get screwed up? Mostly because I can't find menus and buttons as fast as I could simply adjust an f-stop or focus with a manual camera.

Funny, my 5D3 does exactly what I tell it to, when I tell it to.

Takes a day or so of hard practice to simplify it to the controls you want to use, and only those, and then it just works. Much quicker than learning the Zone system was.

Regarding aperture variability - I was told by a Canon engineer that 1/3 stop variation was considered "within spec".

The only digital snafu I encounter is with the white balance with my NEX-7. I do not know why, but it will go colder without warning. The shutter-lag with this mirrorless camera stops me from upgrading to the newest and greatest, but when it is resolved, I will upgrade. Also I learned just how much crap a TV manufacture can shove into a small camera body when I started using the NEX-7. What were they thinking? I now understand all the jokes about having to program a VCR.

One of my favorite cameras to shoot is the Sigma SD1 Merrill. Some photographers report terrible focusing issues with these cameras, but focusing for me has never been an issue. I focus using one focus spot and move it around as needed. I find it interesting that I own two of these cameras, shooting one for color and the other exclusively for b&w infrared, and I produce consistently sharp images. I think technique comes into play here.

I was trained early on to shoot 4x5" trans film so I make bracketed shots as part of my workflow when I deem necessary. All-in-all, I embrace digital photography with open arms. I learn to use my cameras in a somewhat half-auto, half manual way, and decided early on that I do not want to learn how to program a VCR.

A bit tangential to the main topic, but the possiblility of sudden,undesired changes is the reason why I will never own a computer driven car.

Simply put, NO. Manual all the time for critical work. Only move off from that when shooting for fun.

Hi Gordon,
Funny you should mention that but today my E-M5 turned to cool wb after I changed lens. Several shots later I noticed that the AF wasn't working. No amount of diving in the menu produced any clues. AF came back after I took off the lens and put it back on again.

Sigh.... I have never been able to figure out my OMD-Em5 flash settings and get a proper exposure first try. Menu hell for sure, and lots of items are mis-named. As a left eyed shooter, my nose tends to also change settings randomly. Grrrr. A real shame as it is such a nice portable kit. I''ll stick to my Nikons for any flash shooting I do. They are a pleasure to use, ( as are most of nikons menues ). Years ago I had a little Sony DSC W5, with 3x zoom lens, 5 megapixels, super easy to use, shot over 900 photos with it while on a 12 day vacation in 2006. They all turned out well. Hmmmm.

I think I can sum up the issues we have with our equipment.
We all fell in love with with photography, and much like a spouse, it's something that we want to spend our lives with. But often, our equipment really is just another mother-in-law.

Do I trust... - No. Have I ever had... - yes, all the time. My old Pentax K20D has developed a mind of its own when it comes to auto-exposure, giving two different exposure suggestions for two shots on a tripod of the same unchanging scene. With one particular lens it always over-exposes by about a stop. I went shooting with my Olympus the other day and found when I got home it had been recording half-resolution JPEGs instead of RAW.
I'm learning new coping strategies all the time, checking everything before and after taking to avoid disasters.
I like the automation. Auto-focus is better than my poor eyesight can manage. Aperture-priority auto-exposure is faster and easier than manual, allowing me to concentrate on what's important. But these are computers, and so inherently unreliable.

So succinctly true. I spent an entire day painstakingly fine tuning the focus adjustments for each of my lenses on two bodies and just like you I still get different focal planes when on a tripod shooting a fixed object. And don't even get me started on focus peaking. I figured manual focus would solve my focus problems and focus peaking was the perfect solution for my weak eyes only to discover focus peaking is more out of focus than my finely tuned auto [out of] focus. Now, where's my phone at, I want a picture of something or other.

I think everyone complaining about their cameras need to understand that the camera is only as smart and dependable is it's user. Time to grow up and take some responsibility!

"Just grab your Leica and a few rolls of film".
The legends of Leitz - In 45 years of photography, dozens of cameras, a few different formats I've never misloaded any film SLR more than once. Always used "take up rewind" to confirm proper load, shot 36 with full confidence, began to worry around 38 never went past 40.

OTOH, I've rarely successfully loaded any M Leica on the first, second, or third try. Owning only two hands seems insufficient for the task, and a knowledgeable helper or small table sized steady surface is "de-rigeur". In certain parts of the world, servants with small and nimble hands are prized as "M butlers", and their hands are gloved to protect their skills. The **leicaphiles know this, and jealously guard secret film tongue clip tips to be shared only among LUG/LHS members.

**secret society guarding the ancient "scripts of Wetzlar"


When it comes to these matters, I usually refer to the old (analogue) times.
Actually, I don't think that there is a lot changed since the digital tsunami submerged us...
When shooting film, a lot could go wrong too, things we couldn't control neither. And not only the camera let us down, film, it's processing and printing (finishing), could be a serious stumbling block too!
BTW, remember collodion glass plates and everything that could go wrong with these little beggars? Wel, lots of magnificent photo's were made that way!
Why can't we do so with our 'spoiling and lazy making' digital cameras?

Cameras (and computers) are just man made tools, as nobody is perfect, these tools aren't for the same reason.
And, allow me to add this thought too: we aren't made for eternity...

So, your lamentation about stubborn and strangely acting cameras and missed opportunities, is a part of the trade and, we, photographers, have to learn to live and deal with it, no more nor less.

I had a Nikon D70 where the screen showed me a slightly different view from the end result after I pressed the shutter. I tried to live with it for a year, but in the end I couldn't, and it went. When I bought an EM5 sometimes it wouldn't show me the photos I'd taken, an infuriating habit, which Olympus couldn't cure, even after I sent it back twice. One day I pressed a button somewhere and it started to work properly. My sigma dp2 misbehaved at first by telling me I couldn't see some of the shots I'd taken. On the advice of the shop salesman, I changed the memory card, and now it mostly works ok, but I still don't know why.Sometimes my computer goes wrong too, and I don't always know why. I suspect all these things are designed, built and marketed by people who are not encouraged to make things simple for users, either because the manufacturers don't care about, or understand the needs of their customers, or because they know that the model we bought will be replaced fairly soon by a new one, so it's not worth investing a lot of money in something that won't be around too long.

...haven't read all the comments, but I certainly hope someone brought up the fact that modern digital cameras don't even render the same results under different lighting, or light levels...sorry, but film pros have been talking for years since they've been forced to take on digital, on how there are too many variables, and those variables aren't even the same if the settings are the same!

Load a roll of Ektachrome 100G, and if I shoot in continuous light, it looks the same as when I shoot under strobe (aside from some filtering I may have to do). Not the same with digital. Shoot under strobe, continuous light, long exposures, etc. and the result may look far different! It's almost the first thing we all noticed.

Expectation of define-able and expectable results do not exist. I went from shooting transparency and 'getting it on the film', to shooting digital and being forced to shoot raw and work on every single frame to get it where I want it...

Hey Gordon.
Great to have back.
I have 2 EM5 bodies. Not because they fail or I want to make my bag heavier, but because the way the cameras need to set up for wide angle use compared to long lens use (reliably) is so different, it was just easier to set up two bodies (one black/one silver for identification) and "set and forget". Not always perfect anyway, but a start.
Wide angle is wide area AF or zone focus, rear screen out at waist level and touch option, the long one, eye piece only, single point AF.

The first thing I do when I get a camera is spend a couple hours going through absolutely every menu setting and customizing the camera so it operates in the way I'm accustomed to. The goal is to do everything possible to stay out of the dreaded menus during regular shooting. For the most part I'm successful. I can even shoot my Olympus - the worst menu offender - without diving for settings. I basically try to turn every camera into an M6 with auto focus.

The trick is to get the camera to operate like it doesn't have the 100 "features" that convinced you to buy the camera in the first place

I've been shooting for 40 years and making my living with cameras for 36 of them. The current digital cameras I use for all of my work, pro and personal, are the most dead reliable and TRUSTable cameras ever. The AF and AE are very predictable, and each is very easy to override or configure so I get what I want.

If a setting changes, it's because I touched a button to make it change, and that happens inadvertently in the rough and tumble of making images. And when I do that, I don't blame the camera, it's something I did. So far the Lumix cameras that I've used have never changed a setting on their own.

I make it MY responsibility to know my tools. If I don't know what I did to make something change, and don't know how to get it back, it's my fault for being ignorant. I don't care what you say, none of these cameras are impossible to figure out. Just be patient, and don't blame the camera as it is merely a lump without your input.

When I used very simple cameras, like Nikon F2's or Hasselblad's, I would from time to time change my f stop or shutter to the wrong setting by mistake while it was over my shoulder or while picking it up. Happened more than enough times that I made it my business to check it all the time.

So far, the most unreliable cameras I ever used were Leica M4-P's. I had to have four of them to have two that I could use at any given time. The rangefinders went out of collimation on a regular basis, and the shutter speeds were merely an approximation of what was marked most of the time. And they would go out of whack on the job without warning. All the images from one camera would be out of focus, or the 1000th setting was more like a 600th and my transparency film would be overexposed. So, always rotated my cameras on shoots and never only shot with one camera.

So, I switched to Canon with the birth of their EOS system. Which as nice as it was, was far from perfect. The AF was better than anything else out there, but still not completely trust worthy, and prone to front/back focus. The much vaunted matrix meter pattern was impossible to figure out what is was doing, so I went back to carrying hand held meters and only ever trusting them, but only once there were calibrated. Gossen's tended to underexpose. Sekonic's and Minolta's were better and easier to adjust. Don't even get me started on TTL flash in those cameras!

So, what camera can anyone trust? Not one, until you learn to take responsibility for knowing what it does, it's tendencies, peculiarities and shortcomings.

We now live in a time where, for those of us using mirrorless cameras, exposure is shown right on our screens in real time. AF is always on the money, so long as you have the sensor over the part of the scene that you want in focus. There's no back or front focus.

You the user have total control. And you the user have total responsibility for knowing your camera. You don't need a book to read, you only have to know how to think and solve problems. Every technology has it's plusses and minuses, however without the proper input from the user, it's as dumb as rock.

And, if you bought into a camera system that is hard to navigate and figure out what the menu's mean, or what this or that does, then you bought the wrong camera. Yes, some of them have very opaque menus and user interfaces. So, why did you buy it? Again, your responsibility. There are cameras and camera systems that are very easy to navigate, and consistently so across the system. Figure out which make sense to you and buy them.

And if your camera is doing things on it's own, then you either have a broken camera, or it's been taken over be evil demons that are determined to undermine your photography. And if you believe that, then I'd suggest you get a view camera. Then you can go back to blaming the film manufacturers, the lab, the meter maker, the lens, or the same evil demons who have taken over your digital camera.

It's easy to blame the technology. And for many it seems, very hard to take responsibility for making the wrong purchase, inputting an inadvertent command, or for plain old not knowing enough about their tools.

I still do not get the Olympus menu system so far. I enjoyed my OMD2 very much but when I want to get a bird, I get back my Nikon as I am not sure I understand what they are doing in the camera. If they were better, I would get their 150mm 2.8 and later the 300mm one. But unless they improved their menu so that I understand what the thing is doing, no!

You cannot trust something you do not know. Unless you shift to become a religion - I believe instead I trust.

I really loved the UI on my Nikon FM3a.

I just returned a Canon 7dII because of focusing errors. I did as much testing as I possibly could with a tripod and targets because I knew if I spoke of it, I would be labelled incompetent (I do this for a living and use both Nikon and Canon). I micro adjusted my individual lenses but still would receive unpredictable results in the field. Bullseye center frame, good light, fast shutter speed, center focus point, "one shot" mode, solid green light... Click. "What?! Focus is a foot ahead of that Mountain Dew can!
Let me try again, I'll lean against this tree... Hmm, it can't be this brilliant piece of technological engineering, it must be little old fallible me."
Confused and bewildered, I traded in all my Canon gear and decided to go mirrorless. I had been considering that move for a while anyway and this was just the nudge I needed.
Thanks Mike, I now feel I have an ally in the coming onslaught of torches and pitchforks.

I'm using a pair of Leica M3's for their uncluttered viewfinders, simple exposure operation (metering by eye with occasional incident meter check), no batteries, no cables, no chargers and the absolutely reliable immediate responsiveness of their shutters. I find the film loading to be easy and faultlessly reliable as well. Just spent 6 weeks on tour through Europe and it was a delightful experience compared to my previous tour digitally equipped, and the results are noticeably better.

I haven't fully trusted any camera since the 1970s, when a nearly new all-manual lens demonstrated to me that excess lubricant (applied at the factory) can migrate onto aperture blades, making them sticky, resulting in badly overexposed slides. With digital, I at least have the ability to discover and possibly correct issues on the spot, rather than waiting a few days for Kodachrome processing.


I think your tongue-in-cheek essay belies the fact that you'll produce an exceptional image regardless of what the camera is doing.

However, I think the "feature creep" that we've seen in cameras recently has actually contributed to Japan's camera companies woes. Case in point. I have five grandkids, all active in various sports in their hometown of Irvine CA. As recently as five years ago, I'd see at least 60% of the parents attending their child's game with a shiny new DSLR in hand to record their son or daughter's getting a hit or crossing home plate, etc. Today, I probably see only 10 maybe 20% of the parents using a DSLR. They've all switched to iPhones or other brand smartphones.

As I know most of them, when I ask them what happened to their DSLR, the common refrain I hear is "it's too complicated", "even though I only shoot in auto mode, I always get inconsistent results", "it's to bulky for me to carry with all the other stuff we bring to the games". Without a doubt, the most frequent reaction I get is that the iPhone is with them all the time and it takes better photos (they mean consistently usable images) than their DSLR. In probing further, it's interesting that they say they still have the DSLR, but hardly use it anymore.

So while experienced photographers like you can quickly decipher what camera setting just changed and still get a decent image, the primary target customer (average consumers) are at a loss how to use their new "professional" camera with any confidence or achieve any repeat success in taking good photos.

Methinks this has had a dramatic impact on Japan Inc.'s belief that sales of these devices to first time DSLR users would spawn a constant upgrade business (due to new features in the next model) as well as a significant increase in optional lens sales.

It ain't gonna happen if the camera stays in the family closet, and mom and dad gladly spend their money on upgrading their iPhone ever year or two.


>>I don't care what you say, none of these cameras are impossible to figure out.<<

Mike, is it possible you missed the humorous intent of this post? And is it also possible, based on the length of your comment and the time you spent writing it, that you care a lot more than you think you do?

Gordon, I believe I did miss the humorous intent of this article.

Unfortunately I regularly hear from people about how confusing these cameras are, and that they don't understand whats happening. I even had to talk someone out of an overwhelming desire to smash his camera because it wasn't doing what he wanted it to. It was set wrong.

And yes I know I care, only because it drives me crazy when photographers blame the technology. And, that's what I thought you were up to. Should have known better.

"...With digital, I at least have the ability to discover and possibly correct issues on the spot, rather than waiting a few days for Kodachrome processing..."

Yes, but, using proven equipment, after those few days one had a Kodachrome transparency. I'd take one of those (especially PKM25) over any digital file. :-)

Design and programming of menu choices is easy and quick.

Design and engineering of mechanical controls and components is hard and slow.

With the former, you can just rush ahead and not worry too much about the end user who can be directed to the user manual. With the latter, you had better get it right, or your product will be unusable and a lemon in the marketplace.

Camera designers no longer have the discipline of the mechanical era acting as a brake.

I'm sure it was only a week or so ago that Mike detailed how to save custom settings so you can immediately restore back to a setup that you trust.

This complex programming and anticipating your every need sounds a lot like the transmissions in many modern cars, some of which come with clumsy paddles on the steering wheel so that you can "be in full control of your motoring experience." You wonder why these drivers who want to be in control of their Autobahn-tuned driving machine don't just use a manual transmission. Clutch pedal, accelerator, pedal, and simple control of one stick. Hmmm, sounds like manual control of exposure. Oops, sorry both require the user to think. My bad.

I've scanned and worked with a lot of my K25 transparencies (never liked K64, never used K200), and I'll tell you, I vastly prefer my current digital files (12 or 16 megapixels) to the K25 images for technical quality. Something like a D810 would blow them so far out of the park you couldn't ever find them again (which is probably the right choice). My cameras were chosen for low-light performance, and they still beat the pants off K25. Which of course is why it's gone away. Ektar 25 and the latest Ektar 100 have at least some claims to fame left.

I actually find more difficult to learn a lens than to learn a camera.

That happened to me with the Leica R system [the 50 f2] and the FA 43 1.9.

And I prefer digital to film, quite frankly. I guess it is the "instant satisfaction factor".

I've never particularly trusted multi-point auto focus on cameras I've used. I don't have any dogmatic or ideological reasons for this; certainly, I don't have anything against it (As writing this reminds me of some breaded hipster prothletising the purity of a 'manual camera').

Instead, I've come to accept that auto focus cameras have never been able to predict what I've wanted to focus on. In my rationale, auto focus have always been always been programmed by extremely clever and perceptive people, and on a side note, I feel there is a unforeseen / unappreciated craft in developing a good system. By that measure, all auto focus system are anthropocentric, in the way their function does not serve anything else but that of the users, us. Therefore when programmers have to design heuristics into the camera firmware, they make assumptions on what and why certain objects a camera should be focused on. As technology has developed, these techniques have become increasingly sophisticated, as well as faster and more accurate but the heuristics remain consistent. I just don't see, pardon the pun, 'eye to eye' with those heuristics.

It's most maddening when a feature you've come to use is just plain buggy on a later model camera.

E.g.: I was shooting with a Canon 7D and had my old 20D in the bag 'as a backup'. Imagine my horror when I managed to break my 7D on a workshop and actually had to use my 20D to shoot Bryce Canyon dawn/dusk captures. After that experience, I bought a 70D as a more capable backup, and left the 20D at home in the 'camera museum'.

Now, both of these bodies (7D and 70D) sport custom modes, where you can save settings and easily recall them. On the 7D, when you recall settings and subsequently modify them, the 7D will retain the settings even through power-offs, as long as you don't select a different custom setting.

On the 70D, a custom setting loses its modifications as soon as the focus timer times out (?!). I didn't realize this for a bit the first time I was using it, and ended up with wildly different settings in my captures than what I thought I had selected. I even dug through the menus and found a setting (unique to the 70D) that promised that it would dynamically update my saved custom settings for me (not exactly what I wanted, but any port in a storm), but it doesn't seem to work. At all.


I use a custom setting on both cameras to save a 'mirror-lock up/ISO 100/F.16' as a quick way to get from whatever I was doing before to my tripod/landscape mode. Beats having to dig through the menus to find mirror-lockup, in particular, since Canon has never seen fit to put it on a button on the body.

From the 70D follies, I've come away from workshop shoots with things like Auto-ISO set, which during dawn/dusk shoots results in a very noisy unusable capture.

Double foo.

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